Take It Off-Road…but Please Tread Lightly
Color Outside the Lines…that was once a line in one of Jeep’s TV ads, and those of us with a passion for off-roading can definitely relate. Take it outside the lines, off the road – to places most can’t go. It is a thrill, can be a challenge, but it also gets you to parts of nature that aren’t on the map. We are blessed in the four-corners area to have some of the best trails around for off-roading. Whether you’re a beginner with a stock vehicle, or an advanced avid off-roader who spends more upgrading your truck than you do on your mortgage – there are amazing places in these four-corners to go. However, to enjoy this amazing land around us, there are some basic rules to follow to help save this land and keep these trails open for years to come. Following are some basic rules to help protect environment and each other. Grab your truck, some friends, gas up and get out there!
- Travel only in areas designated for four-wheel drive vehicles. This includes driving over obstacles on the trail, instead of around, as this will avoid widening the trail.
- Straddle gullies and ruts.
- Cross streams and rivers only at designated points – where the road crosses.
- When possible avoid mud. If you do go through mud or soft terrain, keep a slow and steady pace to avoid spinning wheels which can cause rutting and damage the trail, and will often get you stuck.
- Don’t turn around on narrow roads, steep terrain or unstable ground – reverse until you find a safe place to turn around.
- If you cannot see ahead of you on the trail, stop and scout it by foot to avoid any major unseen obstacles – yes, I have seen people go up a hill and end up in a lake on the other side…it happens.
- To increase traction – decrease air pressure in your tires to the point you see a slight bulge (usually no lower than 20 p.s.i.)
- Know your vehicle’s clearance – the height from the ground of the lowest point on your vehicle.
- Maintain a reasonable distance between vehicles.
- Always travel with another vehicle – this way if one gets stuck you still have a way out. Also, having three or more people on the trail allows most of us to tip our trucks back up and keep going.
- If you get stuck – always attach tow strap or winch to lowest part of the frame of the vehicle, never to a bumper. Always allow the winch to do the work to avoid injury.
- When using a tree as an anchor, always use a wide tow-strap to avoid damaging the tree.
- Don’t drink and drive – drive, have a great time, then have a few beers around the campfire later, when the driving is done.
- Avoid sensitive areas – habitats, areas with livestock or large wildlife, archeological and historic areas. If you do encounter livestock or wildlife, try to avoid spooking them the best you can.
- Always leave gates as you found them – open or closed.
- If traveling on private property, always retain permission from land owner (most are gracious if you respect them enough to ask.)
- Yield to those traveling in ATVs, on horseback, or on mountain bikes.
- Proceed with caution around pack animals as sudden, unfamiliar activity or noises can spook the animals.
- Do not idle around camping or picnic areas, and keep speed low when in these areas.
- Take only photos – leave only footprints. Carry out everything you carried in – including trash.
- Observe sanitary waste disposal.
- Have an idea of where you’re going. Yes, some of the most fun is getting lost and finding trails that aren’t on any map, but you do want to have an idea of where you can and cannot go in certain areas.
- Know the weather before you leave so you are not caught unexpected. If there has been a lot of precipitation in recent days, please use caution. If you go out and the terrain is too soft, you can get stuck and then it can take many vehicles to get you out, which damages the trail and the environment around it.
- If you are inclined, there are off-road driving courses around these states.
- Know your vehicle – be prepared with tools, supplies and a spill kit for any repairs on the trail.
- Join a trail group – there are groups in every state and we all share a love for off-roading, so please don’t be intimidated if you’re a beginner – we all started somewhere and love to teach those just discovering their passion.
A lot of this is common sense, but a great reminder, nonetheless. If we all practice Treading Lightly – these trails will be there for years to come for many later generations to enjoy. Get out and discover new territory; challenge yourself and your vehicle; meet others who share your passion (and empty pockets). There is so much to see out there off the beaten path. See you out there.